Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Don't Bother to Knock (1952)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Don't Bother to Knock (1952)

British director Roy Ward Baker's film noirish thriller (his first American film) was sex-pot Marilyn Monroe's 12th credited film but was her first dramatic starring role. In fact, three of Monroe's early roles were in dark and demanding dramas, including two others: Clash By Night (1952) and Niagara (1953) (see later). It was released shortly after the news of her scandalous nude appearance in a calendar photo-shoot. In this film, she starred as a shapely blonde named Nell Forbes, who was revealed to be a very disturbed baby-sitter in a hotel room. A tagline for the film described her: "...a wicked sensation as the lonely girl in Room 809!"

The film's screenwriter Daniel Taradash based the screenplay upon Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel "Mischief" (the story was originally serialized in issues of Good Housekeeping Magazine - April to May 1950). For the six songs sung in whole or part by Anne Bancroft in her first feature film, she was dubbed by Eve Marley.

  • the film opened in NYC's middle-class urban McKinley Hotel, where in the hotel's adjoining Round-Up Room, country-western lounge-singer Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft in her debut film) wondered to friendly bartender Joe (Willis Bouchey) if her ex-boyfriend, Skyways Airlines pilot Jed Towers (Richard Widmark), would show up after coming in on a flight from Chicago; he usually flew in on long weekends (it was a Thursday) to rendezvous with her
  • she told Joe how she had recently ended their six-month relationship by writing him a letter to announce their break up: ("I invited him not to see me anymore"); she confessed: " I like almost everything about him...except me, I guess" - before singing "How About You?" to the audience
  • simultaneously Jed had already registered and checked into the hotel and was in his 8th floor room, sprawled on the bed; the tough and cynical, newly-single male was smoking and contemplating whether to go to the bar and speak to Lyn, when he heard her crooning voice in the bar - piped into his room through a wall radio-speaker; cranky in mood, he reread the 'break-up' letter that Lyn had referred to earlier: "Dear Jed - I have reached the conclusion - painfully enough - that this is the end of the line for us..." - and in disgust ripped up the letter, and threw the pieces of paper out his open window
  • at the same time, shy, young, and slightly-disheveled Nell Forbes (Marilyn Monroe) entered the hotel's outer revolving doors and briefly stood outside the bar area; she met up with her uncle, the hotel's amiable elevator operator Eddie Forbes (Elisha Cook Jr.), a 14 year hotel employee, who had suggested her for a baby-sitting job for one of the guests' young daughters for the evening; as they ascended in the elevator, he suggestively and over-solicitously asked her: "You won't have any trouble with her, will you, Nell?"; Nell had been in NY for only a few weeks and was living with her mother Martha and Eddie
Nell with Her Uncle: Elevator Operator Eddie (Elisha Cook, Jr.) - Suggested by Him for a Babysitting Job in the Hotel for the Evening
  • the slightly pushy Eddie introduced Nell to the 8th floor hotel guests needing a sitter - newspaper editorial writer Peter Jones (Jim Backus) and his wife Ruth Jones (Lurene Tuttle); they were the parents of an 8 year-old girl named Bunny (Donna Corcoran); the inexperienced Nell was hired to be a babysitter for one night for their daughter in their hotel room # 809, while the parents attended the ASNEA convention's awards ceremony in the hotel's banquet ballroom, where Peter was to be presented with an editorial award; as the Jones couple entered the elevator, Jed joined them
The Jones' (Peter and Ruth) Introduced by Eddie to His Niece Nell, Hired as the Evening's Babysitter for Their Young Daughter Bunny (Donna Corcoran)
  • ex-boyfriend Jed entered the Round Room's entry way to listen to Lyn singing: "A Rollin Stone"; he then sat at the bar as she sang her next tune: "Manhattan"; meanwhile, with the tune playing on the speaker in the Jones' hotel room, in their bedroom, Nell read Bunny a short fairy-tale story with a "happy ending" about a prince releasing his bride from a witch's cage - using a monotone, uninflected voice
  • after she finished her latest song, Jed spoke to Lyn about their recently-broken up 6-month relationship via a letter; she affirmed: "I meant what I wrote"; she emphatically told him that after the last time he left, she saw no future with him in mostly weekend get-togethers up until then, and told him outright: "It's what was going to be wrong with it. Call it the old blank wall. The future without a future...I don't want it anymore. Life's too long"; she excused herself to sing a requested love song: "There's a Lull in My Life"
  • upstairs in the Jones' 8th floor hotel room, with the parents out for the evening and Bunny now in bed, Nell was left alone; aimlessly in the Jones' bedroom, she sampled Ruth's 'Liaison' perfume, and wore her sparkling bracelet and earrings; she gazed upward and heard a plane flying over - reminding her of her troubled past; at the window as she looked out, a tear fell from her right eye

Nell Trying On The Hotel Guest's Jewelry

Hearing a Plane Flying Over - Reminiscing About the Past and Shedding a Tear
  • Lyn's song ended - and in a lounge booth, Jed was strongly urged by her: "Fly back to Chicago. Find yourself another bar, find another girl"; she added her opinion about marrying him: "I wouldn't want to marry you....It's something to do with the way you are"; they were offered various photographs of themselves for sale by the lounge's photographer Janie (Gloria Blondell), and Jed bought one of each variety, although he glibly nicknamed her "Little Miss Larceny"
  • thus, Lyn calmly and starkly criticized his coldness and other faults: "That camera girl. Any person. The way you treat people. The way you think about them. All you can focus on is the cold outside of things. The simple facts. Not any causes or whys or wherefores. Oh, you're sweet and you're fun. And you're hard. And you lack something that I ask for in a man...An understanding heart"; she claimed she was "good and through" with him and ordered: "Go along!"; Jed retreated from his former lover to his hotel room # 821 - to further sulk and pace the floor as she began her next song, "How Blue the Night," also broadcast through his room's speaker; on his bed, he perused his black book, but threw it aside
  • at his window, Jed voyeuristically viewed Nell (flirtatiously wearing Ruth's lacy black negligee) in her room across the courtyard; she was dancing, noticed him and spoke out: "Hello!", and then flirtatiously closed and then opened her venetian window blinds to signal him as he poured himself a drink; on the rebound and thinking she was available and willing, he telephoned her room (identified as # 809 after perusing the hotel floor plan on the back of the door) and asked the shapely blonde: "Are you doing anything you couldn't be doing better with somebody else?" Calling himself "the man across the way - a lonely soul," and giving her a false name ("Billy"), he suggested bringing over a bottle of rye: "I'll come over, and we'll spin a few stories. How about it?"
First Phone Call Between Jed and Nell

Jed's First Look Across the Courtyard at Nell

Jed: "Are you doing anything you couldn't be doing better with somebody else?"
  • she hung up and ended the conversation when her uncle Eddie knocked on the door to check on her; he was disturbed by her sexy appearance, and reprimanded her for impulsively dabbing on Ruth's perfume and trying on her jewelry, lacy negligee and fuzzy slippers: "You better wash it off you...And get those things off you, too!"; he suggested that she had to be patient, get over her previous grief for a deceased boyfriend, and find a new guy: "Give yourself a little time....You're still mooning about that guy. Well, guys get killed....But there's others....Another fellow could pop up anytime. A real nice fellow, you'll see. Maybe tomorrow or next week"
  • soon enough, after Eddie left, the flirtatious, voluptuous blonde disobediently and mischievously opened her venetian blinds, and signaled to get the hotel guest's attention; he called and was invited over; pretending to be the rich wife, she applied lipstick and more perfume just before he arrived, revealing suicidal razor blade scars on both wrists, and she also readjusted the garters on her stockings; bringing over his bottle of rye, Jed met up with her at her door, and requested: "Be neighborly. Ask me in"
  • during their initial conversation, the amazed Jed commented that he must have struck a "home run" due to her gorgeous looks, and mentioned how her "aroma" was quite strong; the emotionally-unstable, clingy and very needy Nell lied that she had bought the negligee in Paris; she was in NYC for only a few days, and enroute to South America; beginning to become bewildered by her, he noticed the initials RFJ on a piece of luggage and asked about it; she claimed it was her sister's suitcase; he humored her about her trip via sea to South America, and then implicitly claimed that she was a complete airhead: "I ran out of girls like you when I was 14"; he also noticed another inconsistent deception - a pair of men's shoes - that she claimed belonged to her sister's out-of-town husband
  • after Jed told her he was often "cynical," and that he worked as an airline pilot with a route from NYC to Chicago, she was startled and touched her wrist scars; as she faced her mirror, she assumed he had flown in the war and naturally became a pilot
  • she mistakenly and delusionally believed he was her ex-boyfriend/fiancee Philip - a military aviator who died while flying a cargo airplane to Hawaii in 1946; she projected all her hopes and dreams onto him: ("You crashed in the the ocean in '46 on the way to Hawaii. But you weren't killed, you were only lost!...You were rescued! You came back!"); noticeably excited, she kissed Jed, thankful that he had finally returned to her; of course, he reciprocated the kiss

Bunny Awakened

Startled by Bunny

Bunny's Intrusion After Waking Up

Nell's Abusive Language Toward Young Bunny

Jed Realizing That Nell Had Been Deceiving Him All Along

Jed: "You're a gal with a lot of variations"
  • during Nell's private time with Jed (that included kissing, drinking, and flirting), Nell neglected her responsibility for Bunny; their conversation disturbed and woke up the young child Bunny, who appeared from her bedroom to intrude upon their intimacy - and revealed the truth of Nell's situation as a babysitter; the disruptions led to confusion, and unbalanced and threatening behavior exhibited by Nell towards the young child; she abusively ordered Bunny back to her bedroom ("This isn't your room. You got back in there and go to sleep!"), but she refused; Bunny even accused Nell and the strange man of stealing her parents' things: "You're a gang. That's what you are. You came to steal my Mother's things...You take off my mother's dress!...You can't make me do anything! You're only supposed to be minding me"; Jed saw 'red flags' and began to realize Nell's flakiness, damaged psyche, and pathological lying: "You know, you're a gal with a lot of variations"
  • the pathetic Nell semi-admitted, after her deprived childhood - that she couldn't help her odd behavior; she had been play-acting and fantasizing a date with him about being rich and having nice things; she had only arrived on a bus in the big city from Oregon a month earlier, and had never been in a hotel before; Jed sympathetically apologized for making fun of her and with kindness, he encouraged her to be hopeful: "Things will be better. They even up, bad breaks, good breaks"
  • Jed tried to comfort Bunny, who was now crying in her room; he befriended her and brought her out into the living room; Nell turned on the hotel speaker (Lyn was singing "Chattanooga Choo Choo") to entertain her; as Bunny went back to her open bedroom window to cool off, Jed witnessed Nell threatening Bunny - it looked like she was about to push her out the window: ("You won't cry any more, will you?")
  • the startling and potentially dangerous incident was also witnessed from below by puritanical Mrs. Emma Ballew (Verna Felton), a "snoopy" long-term hotel resident; when Mrs. Ballew screamed in fear, Jed jumped into action and grabbed Bunny from the window to prevent her from being harmed
  • a few moments later after Nell asked Bunny: "Are you ready to go to bed yet?", she was able to escort the girl into her darkened bedroom to tuck her in; she warned her: "It's wicked to come between people," and also threatened harm to Bunny's favorite doll at home named Josephine if she caused any more trouble: ("Don't utter one sound. And we'll all live happily ever after, you and Josephine and me")
  • when the impatient Jed proposed leaving (to again speak to Lyn), she suggested leaving Bunny altogether: "Let's dance. Take me down to that bar"; she boldly told him: "I'll be any way you want me to be....I belong with you...Even before you came over here, I knew. Every time you looked at me, I wanted to kiss you, like now"; however, Jed refused to kiss her, and held her arms back - Jed noticed the suicide razor scars on her wrists, reflecting her dangerous sexuality and psychotic delusional state; she was forced to explain the circumstances: ("I did it with a razor...when Philip was given up for lost.... I was in another hotel room once. The night before he flew out over the ocean the last time. He said we'd be married when he came back")
  • just then at about 10:00 pm when Eddie arrived with Cokes and to check up on his niece Nell, Jed hid in the bathroom; Eddie was disturbed that she hadn't changed her clothes, and had been drinking: ("You smell like a cooch dancer"), she was restless ("You're ticking like a clock"), and she had recurring mental issues and was not getting better: ("I thought you were getting better"). [Note: Nell had just been released a month earlier after three years as a patient at an Oregon mental institution following her suicide attempt.]
  • Eddie ordered Nell to remove all items of her clothing and jewelry that she didn't own and harshly rubbed off her lipstick; he again felt she was still mentally unstable: "I should have known better, you're NOT cured!"; Nell was upset by the accusation and thought Eddie was acting just like her repressive parents and would institutionalize her again; then, Eddie suspected that she was hiding someone in the bathroom (Jed) - imagining it was her dead boyfriend Philip: ("You want to keep Philip and me apart"); as Eddie went to investigate, he was hit over the head from behind by Nell with a large metal ashtray, as Bunny screamed and began sobbing; Jed helped to treat Eddie's serious head injury in the bathroom
  • soon after, Jed was again anxiously preparing to leave Nell, who again thought that he was Philip who was deserting her: ("Maybe you won't ever come back...What would become of me?"); he stressed that he had to patch things up downstairs in the bar with his former girlfriend Lyn: ("Tonight, I've got a problem of my own to settle")
  • at the same time, concerned long-term hotel resident Emma and her husband Mr. Ballew (Don Beddoe) came to the door, as Eddie hid in the closet when Nell opened the door; Jed snuck into Bunny's bedroom and then decided to sneak out through a second entrance; Jed did NOT notice that the young girl had been bound and gagged by Nell on the bed;
  • the meddling couple suspected that Jed (who they had seen leaving the room by a 2nd adjoining bedroom door # 807) had come from the child's room and had been responsible for various disruptions; confused, Nell told the Ballews that an intruder had threateningly forced his way into the room and harmed the young girl; they marched in and phoned an alert to the hotel detective named Pat (Michael Ross); as Nell listened to their call, she stealthily locked the closet where Eddie was hiding
  • in the bar, Jed intercepted Lyn as she was leaving and asked for her to talk to him ("Let's give ourselves a chance to make some sense"); Jed briefly shared his experiences with the unbalanced babysitter in Room # 809: ("She was kind of pathetic. Real steady one minute, and all mixed up the next"); Lyn was impressed by his new caring attitude: ("I never heard you talk like that before")
Jed Sharing With Lyn His Experiences With "Girl" in Room # 809
  • meanwhile, Nell was threatening to hurt the tied-up and gagged Bunny and blaming her for sending her lover Jed away: ("If only you'd given me a little longer. He was in love with me. We would've been married. You didn't want me to have him from the beginning. You wouldn't let me wear the pretty things, even when I told you about the doll...You sent those people around, you devil!")
  • while in the middle of his story with Lyn, Jed sensed that Bunny might be in trouble, and rushed back to the room, where Bunny's mother had also just entered before him - and screamed! Both of them were able to fight off Nell and rescue Bunny from her constraints; Jed released Eddie from the locked closet, who then explained Nell's history of mental problems: (Eddie: "It wasn't all my fault. They told us she was practically cured." Jed: "What do you mean? She was in an institution?" Eddie: "Three years, in Oregon. She only got out last month. They said to bring her east to a new place. She seemed fine, little things maybe, until tonight. Just before she hit me, she talked weird. About Philip. That was a guy of hers, as if he were alive"); they didn't notice that the painfully-damaged Nell had crawled away from the room and retreated via the elevator to the hotel lobby
  • by the film's conclusion, Jed located Nell there - witnessing how she had cracked up, and was now brandishing a razor blade (stolen from a news-desk convenience counter) - she threatened to slit her wrists; after Lyn tried to help, a reassuring Jed came up to her and she responded with relief: "I didn't think you were ever coming back...They told me you were buried in the sea. I don't want to harm anybody." He was able to have her relinquish the razor and he soothingly talked her out of her delusions about him, by convincing her that he wasn't her lost boyfriend Philip; he chastised the crowd that had gathered to go about their business; then, he tried to make her understand: "The man you think I am was killed in the Pacific. I was never in the Pacific. I never flew to Hawaii"; he urged her to remember what Philip looked like - different from him; he also pointed to Lyn, his real girlfriend to differentiate himself: "I'm Jed, Nell. Jed....This is my girl. I'm in love with her"; Nell finally realized: "You're not Philip. You never were," and Jed reinforced her new understanding of reality: "Philip's dead, Nell"

Nell's Distraught Condition On the Floor in the Hotel Room

Nell in the Elevator to the Lobby

Suicidal Nell Brandishing a Razor Blade in Hotel Lobby
Jed Talking Nell Out of Suicide - with Lyn
  • Nell was led away to a NYC hospital for help, as Lyn observed Jed's new attitude of caring: "Jed, you care what happens to that girl, don't you?" Jed replied: "She didn't want to hurt the kid. She didn't want to hurt anybody." His new attitude and heart-felt understanding and caring set up their own reconciliation, as they left arm in arm to return to the bar for a drink together

Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft) Speaking to Bartender Joe in the Lounge of the McKinley Hotel

Lyn Lesley - Hotel Bar Singer in the Round-Up Room

Disgruntled Jed (Richard Widmark) in His Upstairs Hotel Room

Lyn's Break-Up Letter Reread by Jed in His Room

Nell Forbes (Marilyn Monroe) Entering NYC's McKinley Hotel Lobby

In the Bar Area (During Breaks in Her Singing), Jed Discussing His Break-Up with Lyn

The Couple's Pictures - Offered For Sale by Lounge's Photographer Janie

Lyn to Jed in a Lounge Booth - She Called It Quits: We're "Good and Through"

Eddie Was Shocked That Nell Was Wearing Ruth's Lingerie and Slippers

Eddie: "Get Those Things Off You Too!"

After Eddie Left, Nell's Second Phone Call - Inviting Jed Over to Her Room

Nell Revealing Suicidal Wrist Scars

Nell Sexily Adjusting Her Stockings

Jed Arriving At Her Door: "Be Neighborly. Ask me in"

Facing Her Mirror, Nell Asked About Jed's Profession as a Pilot

Nell Excitedly Kissing Jed, Thinking He Was Philip (Her Deceased Ex-Boyfriend)

Jed Kindly Apologizing to Nell and Encouraging Her to Be Hopeful

Jed Witnessing Nell Appearing to Threaten to Push Bunny Out an Open Window

Mrs. Ballew's Loud Scream

Nell: "It's wicked to come between people"

Nell Admitting to Jed Why She Was Suicidal in the Past

Eddie's Accusation to Nell: "You're NOT cured!"

Jed Tending to Eddie's Head Injury After Being Struck by Nell

Bunny Tied Up and Gagged On the Bed

Nell Threatening the Bound and Gagged Bunny

After Fighting Off Nell, Jed and Bunny's Mother Releasing Bunny's Constraints

Lyn and Jed Reconciled


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